Saturday, April 18, 2009

Teaching and Learning

I'm teaching a UCSC class on the Bicycle and Culture with some other students this quarter, and I'm finding it very interesting.  I've done a bit of public speaking in the past, and have taught people when I was in 4-H, but this is something else entirely.  It's such a multilevel, many headed operation that it's really a mind bender at times.  We're dealing with students who are essentially our peers, a group of student teachers who are all peers, a faculty adviser, and through him the university hierarchy.  In working with all these people and groups, there are a lot of goals that we are expected to hit, and sometimes the disjoint between goals, expectations, and reality is hard to negotiate.  For example, we would love to go to a city council meeting about bikes, but it's double booked with a lecture that has a guest speaker.  Is our teaching more important, or is showing them how activism works, and interacts with the governmental process more important?  It's a very simple question for me, but with each person you add in the decision process, the question becomes exponentially more complex.  How these decisions ultimately get made is very neat, and makes me want to go study a bunch of similar situations.  I suspect that very similar patterns of thought and archetypes will be displayed across similarly sized groups (5<N<15).

It has also been proving a good touchstone for my people skills. (Which is a lame term.)  According to the feedback I've gotten from my co-facilitators, I'm not terrible at public speaking, and can write a lecture.  It has shown that I need to work on the structure of my talks a bit, and do at least one verbal run through of the whole talk beforehand.  I felt like I missed a few points that I really wanted to hit, and repeated myself on some points.  I'm having a really good time interacting with our class though, and in particular my section.  For the most part everyone seems motivated, and happy to be there, which makes my job much easier.  Compared to leading the paint crew (which didn't always want to be there) this class is much easier to lead.  The planning is significantly more complex though.

Robert

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